Page limitations in proposal preparation requirements necessitate the use of tips and tricks to cut out any unnecessary verbiage. Acronyms can be a great way to save space in a proposal. But acronym users beware! The truth is if the reviewers do not understand your acronyms you are actually doing a disservice to your proposal by using them, despite the space you might save on word count. Below are our top recommendations for clients using acronyms in their proposals.
Due to the prohibitive word count or page length in many grant proposals and the overwhelming amount of information applicants need to enter, it only makes sense to save space for important content. Many times this means using acronyms in place of the formal name for organizations, practices, and terms. While there is nothing wrong with acronyms in and of themselves, many times proposal writers assume that because they know what an acronym means, so does everyone else. This is almost never the case. Acronyms tend to be specific to an industry and often the same acronym exists across several different industries to categorize several different things. This can confuse reviewers or lead t reviewer fatigue which ultimately is not helpful to your proposal.
Reviewers are tired
There is a very real condition called reviewer fatigue. Imagine critically reading and rating 50 or more 5-50 page documents over the course of a few months. The proposals would be for all different industries and each proposal will represent the goals of a worthy business that wishes to expand its business or perform research that could positively impact the world. That is a lot of pressure! While reviewers guard against fatigue, with that many proposals to review it is inevitable. Reviewer fatigue can lead to reviewers “spacing out” or glossing over your proposal, so you want your reviewer to be sharp. Spelling out all acronyms the first time you use them to avoid confusion is one way to reduce their fatigue.
Reviewers are unlikely to research acronyms for context
If a reviewer does not understand an acronym, chances are they will not understand the sentence or paragraph it is in. Given the level of fatigue reviewers commonly have and the short timeframe they have to review all proposals, it is highly unlikely they will spend additional time looking up or trying to understand an unknown acronym. You have one chance to make the reviewer understand your proposal so make it count – spell out any acronyms the first time you use them for clarity.
Reviewers are not selected based on industry
The panel of reviewers is selected completely at random to review each proposal. Many small businesses assume (incorrectly) that their reviewers will be experts in their industry and will be familiar with industry jargon and acronyms. This is far from the truth as reviewers are picked at random and are usually NOT experts in the field of the proposals they are reviewing. This means that any unexplained acronyms will likely be a mystery to them. Spelling out your acronym upon first use can ensure reviewers understand all acronyms in a proposal.